Ride hailing firm Uber will face stricter regulation and licensing as a taxi operator after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled it was a transport company.
The business had argued that it was a computer services business with operations that should be subject to an EU directive governing e-commerce and prohibiting restrictions on the establishment of such organisations.
The case arose after Uber was told to obey local taxi rules in Barcelona: lawyers for Barcelona's Asociacion Professional Elite Taxi argued that Uber was directly involved in carrying passengers and EU rules on the freedom to provide services expressly exclude transport.
In its ruling, the ECJ said that a service whose purpose was "to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys" must be classified as "a service in the field of transport" in EU law.
An Uber spokesman said: "This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law.
"However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours.
"As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe.
"This is the approach we'll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button."
The verdict comes after Transport for London (TfL) deemed Uber unfit to run a taxi service and refused to renew its licence in September.
Its licence ran out in October, but the company can continue to operate in London as it is attempting to appeal.
Yesterday GMB was granted permission to participate in Uber's attempted appeal against TfL’s decision, ensuring drivers’ voices will be heard in the process.
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, added: “GMB welcomes decision which confirms that Uber is, as we have always said, a transport company.
“We now want to see sensible regulation being applied to Uber and all drivers to ensure worker and public safety, and a level playing field for all our driver members.
“No doubt TfL will be reviewing this decision closely when they consider GMB member driver evidence in Uber’s current license appeal.”